MonthFebruary 2021

Reading of the Week: Cannabis and Inpatients – the New CJP Paper; Also, Alexander on Her Loss and Her Patient’s (JAMA)

From the Editor

First, there was decriminalization; then, legalization.

How have these major legal shifts influenced the presentation of our patients? In the first selection, we consider a new paper from The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Taylor McGuckin (of the University of Waterloo) and her co-authors look at cannabis use and inpatient care, drawing on databases. “This study identified a significant increase in the proportion of patients who used cannabis within 30 days of their first admission to inpatient psychiatry in Ontario, Canada, between 2009 and 2017, compared to 2007.”

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How do our biases affect the care we provide? In a moving and personal essay, Karen Alexander (of Thomas Jefferson University) discusses the loss of her baby. She thinks about another time, when a patient of hers was in a similar situation, and she mulls her own views and biases. “The weeping woman was always much more than someone who was grieving, but I never really knew her as a person until I mourned the loss of my own child.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Lithium vs. Newer Meds for Bipolar – What’s Best? Also, Nudging Vaccines and Beale on Her Illness Experience & Being a Doctor (BMJ)

From the Editor

In the past, lithium had a large role – in the treatment of bipolar, yes, and before that, as a general remedy for a variety of conditions. Indeed, lithium could be found in various things, including pop (see the picture of the ad for 7 Up below). But times have changed. Lithium prescriptions are less common, and bipolar management increasingly involves other medications. (And, no, 7 Up doesn’t contain that salt anymore.)

How does lithium compare to these medications for people with bipolar? Dr. Jens Bohlken (of the University of Leipzig) and his co-authors do a retrospective study drawing on a national database from Germany. “When treatment failure was defined as discontinuing medication or the add-on of a mood stabilizer, or antipsychotic, antidepressant, or benzodiazepine, lithium appears to be more successful as monotherapy maintenance treatment than olanzapine, citalopram, quetiapine, valproate, and venlafaxine.” We look at the big study, and mull its implications on this side of the Atlantic.

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Can we nudge people to vaccinate? As the world works to get more shots in arms, Dr. Mitesh Patel (of the University of Pennsylvania) argues that behavioural economics will be important. In Nature, he writes that we have a golden opportunity to learn from the vaccine roll-out: “Each institution should report its vaccination efforts and performance, and conduct rapid experiments on how best to encourage people to get their vaccines – especially their second doses.”

Finally, some physicians have commented that being touched by illness has helped them become better doctors. Dr. Chloe Beale, a British psychiatrist, agrees to disagree in a blog for BMJ. “I can’t give the expected, tidy narrative of emerging stronger for having my illness.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Cannabis, Cannabis, Cannabis – With Papers from Psychological Medicine, Psychiatric Services, and Annals of Internal Medicine

From the Editor

“It’s the only thing that works.”

So many of our patients swear by cannabis. It has become a popular choice for everything from anxiety to chronic pain. And though the literature is relatively young, now we know more about cannabis than before. This week, we focus on three new papers.

The first selection is a paper by Dr. Emmet Power (of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) and his co-authors from Psychological Medicine. Does frequent and dependent cannabis use in youth affect IQ? Doing a systematic review and meta-analysis, they find seven papers. They conclude: “We found that young people who use cannabis frequently or dependently by age 18 have declined in IQ at follow up and this may be due to a decline in verbal IQ.”

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In the second selection, we consider a new paper from Psychiatric Services. Dr. Corneliu N. Stanciu (of Dartmouth College) and his co-authors did a systematic review of cannabis for several disorders. “With only eight very small studies, insufficient evidence was found for efficacy of CBD and THC to manage affective disorders, anxiety disorders, or PTSD.”

Finally, in the third selection, we look at a paper from Annals of Internal Medicine. Drs. Arthur Robin Williams (of Columbia University) and Kevin P. Hill (of Harvard University) pose 15 questions about cannabis and answer them. The authors are practical and thoughtful. The clinical bottom line: “Millions more adults now meet criteria for cannabis use disorder in a given year, and all clinicians, not just mental health professionals, have vital roles in improving clinical management, from screening and diagnosis to overseeing treatment plans.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: The New AJP on Alcohol & Subjective Response; Also, Remembering Philip Seeman (Globe) and Sharma on His Godmother

From the Editor

My patient could recognize the damage done by alcohol. The lost friendships. The failed marriage. The firing of her job of 15 years. And yet, she was still puzzled. “How did I get into this mess?”

In a new American Journal of Psychiatry paper, Andrea King (of the University of Chicago) and her co-authors explore the draw of alcohol with a major new study that measures the subjective response to alcohol challenges at five and ten year follow ups. “Initial stimulant and rewarding effects of alcohol predicted heavy alcohol use, and the magnitude of these positive subjective effects increased over a 10-year period in those who developed alcohol use disorder compared with those who did not develop the disorder.” We discuss this big paper.

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Dr. Philip Seeman had an extraordinary career with major achievements. Some argue that he should have shared the Nobel prize. He died on 9 January 2021 at his home. The Globe obituary is our second selection. Dr. Seeman was a generous mentor of many young scientists, and a husband, father, and grandfather. And his work was impactful: Dr. Seeman’s interest in dopamine helped change the way we practice today.

And in our final selection, we look at a new essay by Dr. Gaurav Sharma, a resident of psychiatry at the University of Toronto. The disaster of Ontario’s long term care homes has made many headlines. For this young doctor, the problems are close to home, affecting his godmother. He writes about her life and her downward turn. “In my training as a psychiatry resident, a basic principle I’ve learned is that every mental health crisis has its triggers. In Lucy’s case, the crisis that led to her hospitalization was prompted by a precarious housing situation.”

DG

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